Readers may recall this story: Al Gore denied film footage rights by an Australian filmmaker where Mr. Gore sought the broadcast rights to a “fire tornado” footage shot during a wildfire near Alice Springs Australia for use in his upcoming “dirty weather report” aka 24 hours of Tabloid Climatology™.
The Australian wrote about how the filmmaker said ‘no’ then:
Al Gore denied firestorm footage | The Australian
A WEATHER expert has backed the stance of an Alice Springs filmmaker who refused to sell footage of a firestorm to former US vice-president Al Gore — to use in Mr Gore’s climate presentations — because the event was unrelated to climate change.
In an email exchange with Mr Gore’s office, Tangey said using the footage in a climate-change framework would be ‘deliberately deceptive’
“I am aware that you may have missed the reporting on the very localised nature of this firestorm,” Tangey wrote. “However, in any case, I am confused as to why you would offer to buy a licence to use it at all unless you had conducted even elementary research which might indicate that this Mt Conner event had direct linkage to global warming/climate change.”
Here below is a sample of the video shot by Tangey that Gore wants to use. One could safely bet that it would be used in the unsupportable context of “wildfires and tornadoes are getting worse due to climate change” and what could be more terrifying that tornadoes of fire to people that don’t know about the mechanisms of their formation and how they aren’t like the tornadoes from cumulonimbus supercell storms or that they’ve been around since time immemorial in wildfires?
After seeing it, I can understand why Gore wanted it, and why the filmmaker denied him the right to use it.
Now unbelievably, after being told in no uncertain terms that the use of this video in the context of Gore’s ”dirty weather report“, won’t be licensed to his effort, Gore’s production team is trying again to get this broadcast rights to this video in a “back door” sort of way. Here’s the most recent email exchange:
On 07/11/2012, at 1:04 PM, Andrea Smith wrote:
Wasn’t sure if this is the same Chris who shot the fire tornado? But I was curious if Alice Springs Television still controlled the rights to the footage?
I’m a producer working on some documentary pieces for a nonprofit organization doing an internet broadcast, and was wondering how much it would
be to license some of the footage?
Thank you so much for your help and time!
Andrea L. Smith
Producer/The Climate Reality Project
[telephone numbers redacted]
On Wed, Nov 7, 2012 at 4:28 AM, chris tangey [email redacted] wrote:
I mean no disrespect, but I have to say that at best your organisation has some serious internal communication problems.
At worst, Mr. Gore is now requesting these images “through the back door”, and I note in your email that you completely omit mentioning Mr. Gore or the specific intentions you have for its usage.
As I’m sure you are aware I have previously refused a request for this footage from your Founder and Chairman on the grounds that there is no evidence to support your proposed usage.
That is, that this intense, but incredibly localised, event has any relationship whatsoever to climate change/global warming. In fact from the expert advice I have received, I believe the evidence is to the contrary.
I am happy to be proved wrong, but that appears highly unlikely.
In any case, even if “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing” in Mr. Gore’s organisation, I again have to ask the question; Why would you request this footage
if you do not have firm evidence to prove that this particular event was caused by, or was in any way attributable to, global or even regional climate change?
If a project is bold enough to call itself “Climate Reality, ” then I would reasonably expect a great deal of fact and reality attached to it.
I believe viewers all over the world would expect the same. If I tune into your special event “24 hours of reality” on November 14 and 15, how will I know which event you present is really factual and directly attributable, and which is not?
Dare I say, what will be truth and what won’t be? How will anyone watching know? Especially, how will the 4,000 activists around the world your project has trained to “educate and inspire others” know?
Are all your requests for visual material to support climate change presentations made without any prior requirement for supporting evidence?
I must say that this continuing episode has adversely affected my view of those promoting anthropological climate change , and I now view any programs about it with a more sceptical eye.
So, yet again, I cannot in all conscience accept your offer, for any amount.
On 08/11/2012, at 4:05 AM, Andrea Smith wrote:
First of all, I in no way meant to disrespect or offend you. I am an independent, freelance producer, and I don’t think anyone is trying to acquire the footage through “the back door.” I can assure you that the Climate Reality people have been very very tough on us as far as what stories we are able to cover. For instance, I have produced a piece on climate change and coffee in Colombia with scientists from CIAT, so it is very grounded in science, and both fascinating and terrifying as to what is happening all over this planet.
The program this year is to discuss “Dirty Weather” and “Extremes” of weather. It’s an open point for discussion for the scientists and panelists that will be participating. It’s to invite conversation and discussion. As a freelance producer I had no idea when I started this project that the US is the only country in the world that has an active Climate Denier movement – every other country in the world has accepted this as a fact and is moving forward to do something about it. From what I understand, Australia has implemented a very innovative carbon tax and has a number of other programs in place in many of their cities. I’m somewhat embarrassed I live in a country where we so greedily use up so much of the earth’s resources and seem immune to it.
Anyway, it’s an incredible piece of footage and fantastic you captured it. I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit your country twice for extended periods of time, including Alice Springs. I can easily say Australia is one of my favorite places in the world. Again, no offense meant, and none taken. I hope you do have the opportunity to watch part of the programming and that you find merit in it.
Very best wishes,
Andrea L. Smith
Begin forwarded message:
From: chris tangey
Date: 8 November 2012 11:25:39 AM ACST
To: Andrea Smith
Subject: Re: Firenado footage
Thanks for your response, I’m sure from your comments below that you are personally committed to the cause of anthropological climate change, but as copyright owner my primary concern is that any usage of this material should be scientifically valid and in context. I find that your response hasn’t addressed my specific questions on whether it would be scientifically appropriate to use it in an extreme weather context .
As has been widely reported, it was such a highly localised event it was most likely caused by the fire itself, let alone any external “weather” and certainly not anything on a climatic scale.
The cattle station owners (who have been on that property for 55 years) have indicated that is their firm belief, and that in fact its heat and severity was caused by the fact that they have deliberately protected that patch of resin-filled spinifex grass for over half a century, allowing that resin to build up over time. Spinifex (Triodia) is highly flammable and creates intense heat in any case.
Joel Lisonbee, Manager of the Northern Territory Climate Services Centre, was quoted as saying he also saw no connection between this event and climate change/global warming.
“This event was better described as a dust devil within a fire. Most of us have seen dust devils and know they are not uncommon,” Mr Lisonbee said:
“You need hot, dry conditions but you get those in desert-like conditions everywhere, regardless of global warming.”
I know that we could just “agree to disagree” but I feel I must raise some real concerns to your response. Firstly your title indicates your are employed at the highest level of the Climate Reality Project, a Producer, freelancer or not, so I am confused as to why you refer to “the Climate Reality people” in the third person. Assuming for a moment that these people are separate to yourself you go on to say that they “have been very very tough on us as far as what stories we are able to cover”. So clearly this indicates they must have approved not just your enquiry about the footage, but the next stage of actually offering to buy it.
Since Mr. Gore’s office first contacted me to buy the rights, which indicated Mr. Gore himself had made the request to purchase, I have had cause to conduct considerable research on climate change.
In the course of this research I have discovered a lot of non-scientific, apparently agenda-driven name-calling going on, including your below “Climate Denier” tag.
Apparently “climate deniers” are people with a different viewpoint to yours, so are fair game to be labelled , put in a box and publicly pilloried. I would have though the correct scientific response would be to simply convince them of your argument. I think few people have doubt that the climate is changing, the questions are to what extent and whether it is human-induced. I am happy to be convinced, but by simply labelling questioners who need more information “climate deniers” might be colorful politics, but would seem a doomed approach to science education.
Now, the doubts that I mention don’t appear from thin air, but have actually been introduced by your own “team” so to speak , so it would appear a bit rich to be blaming others, let alone calling them childish names for them now having doubts:
Much more relevant to me is that my research has shown that your own Founder and Chairman has had his own share of controversy:
I have even found a quote from Mr. Gore saying that “the science is settled”. As far as I know true operational science is never settled, it is always open to additional data that may later arrive at a new conclusion.
You say the context of using my footage on this global media event would merely be as “an open point for discussion for the scientists and panelists that will be participating” and to “invite conversation and discussion.”
If there is going to be an “open discussion”, then I presume there will be Scientists with opposing opinions, if not, how will it be “open”?
I’m sorry, but this seems to me both disingenuous and illogical and echoes Mr. Gore’s original request to simply use it in “presentations” on “environmental topics”. In barely the space of a month 2 major Al Gore organisations, Climate Reality Project and Carthage Group have asked to buy this footage. Given the very reason for the existence of these organisations is to promote anthropological climate change,
I am to believe that the purpose is actually NOT to sell viewers on climate change? Then sorry… why do you wish to buy it?
For your information I am no stranger to either science or extreme, wind-related weather events. For instance, I was Associate Producer, Head of Research and Co-Writer on the 1 hour long, 2001 National Geographic Channel (U.S.) documentary “Red Storm” which dealt with dust storms and the relevant science globally.
It seems to me I am the type of person you are making this program for, those of us yet to be convinced, but after the experience of the last month or so I’m afraid I am left less convinced than ever.
Mr. Gore’s team is apparently trying to make a common phenomenon known as a fire whirl look like it is somehow. Wikipedia has this to say about it (sans any mention of climate change or global warming):
A fire whirl, colloquially fire devil or fire tornado, is a phenomenon—rarely captured on camera—in which a fire, under certain conditions (depending on air temperature and currents), acquires a vertical vorticity and forms a whirl, or a tornado-like vertically oriented rotating column of air. Fire whirls may be whirlwinds separated from the flames, either within the burn area or outside it, or a vortex of flame, itself.
An extreme example is the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake in Japan which ignited a large city-sized firestorm and produced a gigantic fire whirl that killed 38,000 in fifteen minutes in the Hifukusho-Ato region of Tokyo. Another example is the numerous large fire whirls (some tornadic) that developed after lightning struck an oil storage facility near San Luis Obispo, California on April 7, 1926, several of which produced significant structural damage well away from the fire, killing two. Thousands of whirlwinds were produced by the four-day-long firestorm coincident with conditions that produced severe thunderstorms, in which the larger fire whirls carried debris 5 kilometers away.
Most of the largest fire tornados are spawned from wildfires. They form when a warm updraft and convergence from the wildfire are present. They are usually 10-50 meters tall, a few meters wide, and last only a few minutes. However, some can be more than a kilometer tall, contain winds over 160 km/h, and persist for more than 20 minutes.
Fire whirls can uproot trees up to 15 metres (49 ft) tall. These can also aid the ‘spotting’ ability of wildfires to propagate and start new fires.
Visually impressive fire whirls may be encountered during dry wind gusts at the annual Burning Man festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, late on Saturday or Sunday evening during the burning of The Man or Temple, respectively.
Maybe Gore’s team will use footage from “burning man” to tell us all how fire tornadoes are more common now due to Tabloid Climatology™
Those who seek to link ‘extreme weather’ to climate should heed this strong editorial for the world’s largest and most prestigious scientific journal, Nature:
From Nature: Extreme weather
Better models are needed before exceptional events can be reliably linked to global warming.
Be sure to see the debut of WUWT-TV countering Gore’s 24 hours of Tabloid Climatology starting at 8PM EST (5PMPST) on November 14th. Details here: